Linda McCartney (1941-1998) is perhaps best known as the late wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, although she left behind a legacy of being a top photographer, a musician, an advocate of vegetarianism and animal rights, and four children.
Linda Eastman was born on September 24, 1941 in New York City. Her family name was in fact Epstein, but was changed to Eastman early in her life. Contrary to popular belief, Linda was NOT a member of the Eastman family that co-founded the Kodak-Eastman photography empire. She was the daughter of John Epstein, a prominent New York lawyer.
She attended a series of private schools in her childhood, during which she was greatly attracted to the fine arts, particularly photography and music. In 1958, she began attending the University of Arizona at Tucson, where she met Mel See, Jr., whom she married in 1962 upon her graduation. The couple had one daughter, Heather, but the pair split amicably in 1965. After this, Linda returned to New York and began her photography career in earnest.
By 1967, Linda was a noted rock and roll photographer. She had been employed by many magazines for just this purpose (including Rolling Stone) and had been romantically linked to many musicians, including Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Winwood, Eric Burdon, and Neil Young. Early in the year, Linda met Paul McCartney in a London nightclub while the Beatles were finishing up their seminal Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP. Although Paul was engaged to Jane Asher at the time, it wasn't long before Linda and Paul fell in love and when Jane broke the engagement with Paul in early 1968, Linda and Heather moved in with him in London.
On March 12, 1969, Linda and Paul married, and shortly thereafter, the couple had their first daughter, Mary. Paul also adopted Linda's first daughter, Heather. Paul and Linda's marriage was one of the most enduring in the entertainment industry. Paul and Linda were inseparable, even weathering a few drug busts together, and they almost never spent a night away from each other. In 1970, Paul formed the band Wings, of which Linda was a member; the group remained together through the 1970s.
It's been said that the Beatle to whom Linda was initially attracted was John Lennon, but John showed no interest in her and Linda subsequently set her sights on Paul. According to John's diaries, however, years later in the 1970s, when Linda was married to Paul and John was married to Yoko Ono, Linda and John reportedly had a brief affair. According to the story, after an argument with Yoko, John went to Paul's home where he found Linda alone. She had also had an argument with Paul and he had stormed out. After a bottle of wine and some marijuana, the diaries claim that John and Linda ended up in bed for a short encounter. Whether or not that story is true is actually largely speculation, but it's the only report that Linda was ever unfaithful to Paul during their marriage.
During the 1980s, both Linda and Paul became vegetarians, and Linda became a vocal advocate of the position, defending animal rights and producing a series of prepared vegetarian dishes for home consumption, which were found in grocer's freezer sections everywhere, as well as writing a series of bestselling vegetarian cookbooks.
In the mid-'90s, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer and in 1998, she tragically died from the disease. That same year, a posthumous Linda McCartney album, Wide Prairie, was released. In her will, Linda left her entire fortune (reportedly worth $230 million at the time) to Paul. Paul also dedicated his 1998 classical album, Working Classical, as well as his 1999 pop album Run Devil Run to Linda.
Linda left behind four children: daughters Heather, Stella, and Mary, and son James.
For additional information on Linda McCartney, the best places to start would be the album Wingspan, which is a two-disc retrospective of Wings, as well as her solo album Wide Prairie. Reading resources include Linda McCartney: A Portrait by Danny Fields, an excellent biography, as well as two photo collections by Linda: Linda McCartney's Sixties: Portrait of an Era and Light From Within: Photojournals.